Humanists – where are you?

“Five Great American Negroes” – Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver and Marian Anderson – a 12-foot-long public mural at the Howard University Art Gallery, was created by Charles White in 1939. White, a humanist, declared, “I like to think my work has a universality to it. I deal with love, hope, courage, freedom, dignity ­– the full gamut of human spirit. When I work, though, I think of my own people. That’s only natural. However, my philosophy doesn’t exclude any nation or race of people.” With love being the first named human expression, no wonder Jay Rene asks, “Where are the humanists?” We need you!

by Jay Rene Shakur

Humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art and motivated by compassion. Affirming the dignity of each human being, it supports the maximization of individual liberty and opportunity consonant with social and planetary responsibility. It advocates the extension of participatory democracy and the expansion of the open society, standing for human rights and social justice. Free of supernaturalism, it recognizes human beings as a part of nature and holds that values – be they religious, ethical, social or political – have their source in human experience and culture. Humanism thus derives the goals of life from human need and interest rather than from theological or ideological abstractions and asserts that humanity must take responsibility for its own destiny. – from The Humanist Magazine

When I first heard about humanism, I wanted to research everything about it. I’m not the type of person to just jump on the bandwagon. I like to know what I’m getting myself into and know it well enough that I can support it wholeheartedly.

The more I learned about humanism and what it stood for, I realized that I was a natural humanist from birth. 

From as long as I can remember I cared about other humans just because I cared. It didn’t matter what they looked like or where they came from, I always had a heart for humanity and for the care of others.

As I continued to think more about it, I realized that hip-hop music artists who first began the craft were also humanists. They often talked about their neighborhood and giving back to it and they wanted to uplift people and give them knowledge and support for the simple fact that we were all brothers and sisters of the human race.

We must create a world of decent human relationships where revolutionary humanism is grounded in democratic human rights for every person on earth. – Bobby Seale

When I started Hip-Hop Humanism, it was based on what I believed humanism to be – supporting the betterment of humans as a whole as well as individually.

I wanted to give back in any way that I could by creating grassroots programs for children and promoting hip-hop artists that were about positivity and uplifting the human race. 

And it continued to grow. It grew into social justice and rightfully so. As a humanist I feel totally inclined to get involved in what is going on in America. It was surprising to me, however, that when I looked to my left and right, I was the only humanist there.

I expected to see humanists more involved, not only on the ground protesting but through literature of some kind, making some noticeable contribution. 

Now, if this literature exists, I have yet to see it and I would love to. However, as much as the humanist stands for, I expected to see all of us out here in the forefront. I expected to see humanism as a major leader and household name in the fight for social justice.

For what is going on in the United States, why wouldn’t humanists be the ones to really help aid this problem?

As humanists we aren’t in it because of a person’s race or their gender. It doesn’t matter their class or how much money they have in the bank. What matters is that they are human. 

Maybe I am supposed to take the lead and make humanism become what it’s supposed to have already been.

As humanists we care about our fellow man, woman and child and do our part simply for them. It’s compassion and it’s love. It is human decency.

Reflecting on the ultimate demise of many Black Panthers, Bobby Seale sums up the goals of the party, goals which speak to a universal humanist agenda:

“We need activists who cross all ethnic and religious backgrounds and color lines who will establish civil and human rights for all, including the right to an ecologically balanced, pollution-free environment. We must create a world of decent human relationships where revolutionary humanism is grounded in democratic human rights for every person on earth. Those were the political revolutionary objectives of my old Black Panther Party. They must now belong to the youth of today,” said Bobby Seale, quoted by Anthony B. Pinn in “Anybody there? Reflections on African American Humanism,” published in 1997 by the UU Humanist Association.

Why have I seen no humanists out here? Where is everyone? 

Did I learn to believe that humanism is something that it isn’t? Has everyone forgotten? 

Or maybe I am supposed to take the lead and make it become what it’s supposed to have already been.

The support of the humanist thought is needed in the social justice fight. We are everywhere – from all occupations and walks of life. 

Who more to understand the plight of mankind and care about it with no agenda but for the upliftment of humans for humans? That’s what I understand humanists to be. 

Was I wrong? Well, if I was wrong, dear old humanist, please be prepared for a revamp of what we do.

Signed,

The New Humanist

Jay Rene, founder of Hip Hop Humanism, documentarian and wife of imprisoned writer Kwame Teague, can be reached on Instagram at @thejayrene, by email at hiphophumanismhr@gmail.com and online at www.hiphophumanism.com.